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Friday 19 January 2018

Film review: Sanctum 3D

Tense story caves in

Paul Whitington

Bad things happen to practically everyone in Sanctum, but it's hard to feel sorry for them because they only have themselves to blame.

An Australian/American co-production partly backed by James Cameron, Sanctum is set in the wilds of Papua New Guinea, where a legendary adventurer called Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) is leading an expedition to the heart of that country's deepest and most inaccessible cave.

The 'Esa-Ala' caves are one of the wonders of the South Pacific, and at their heart a labyrinthine underwater system snakes its way towards the open sea. They've never been explored and McGuire wants to be the first, backed by a swaggering American businessman called Carl Hurley (Ioan Gruffudd).

But just when McGuire and his team are on the verge of a breakthrough, a tropical storm floods the cave mouth and leaves them stranded at their subterranean base camp. The only way out is to try to locate the water's exit to the sea, and as the team struggle through the rocky maze tensions mount and the body count grows.

Cameron's fascination with the deep is longstanding, and Sanctum was filmed using his latest 3D techniques. But that doesn't make its minimalist plot any more interesting. Once the storm strikes and the cast don their diving gear, Sanctum enters a wearying routine of mini-crises and shouting matches.

Some of the underwater scenes are impressive, and Roxburgh is pretty good as the remorseless Frank, but he and the other characters mostly spit clichés at each other, and Mr Gruffudd makes a most unconvincing American.

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